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  • Paranormal Smells October 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern , trackback

    ghostly nose

    Maybe it was the recent review of Thomas’ essay on farts but Beach has been obsessed with smells and paranormal experiences: perhaps in part because some neurological malfunctioning can lead to strong and unexpected smells; there is a pungent field for research there. Long, long ago we looked at a fairy bad smell story and since then Beach has come across five or six other examples where fairies are claimed to have had very characteristic and typically unpleasant smells: the smell of mushrooms is often mentioned! There is also all that spiritualist nonsense about sweet heavenly smells: presumably the medium opened a bottle of perfume. But then there are ghost stories too where stinks take up their place besides temperature and noise in the ghostly canon. Beach came across a very vivid account at a dinner party last week. The dinner party was in northern Italy.

    A couple go to stay at a friend’s house in southern Italy. When they arrive the friend  explains he’s double booked them and that they will have to sleep in a renovated outhouse. However,  before going to bed the husband is told that the room is haunted. The wife is already in bed when he arrives. Hubbie lies down and turns off the lights and then the wife begins to complain. There is the smell of talcum powder. The husband can smell it too but drifts off to sleep. However, through the night the almost sickening smell constantly bothers the wife , though when she wakes up in the morning the smell is entirely gone and it certainly hadn’t been there when she first entered the room. The waking husband then mentions that the room is haunted and all is explained… The wife jumps out of bed and rushes through the door with alacrity.

    When Beach heard this story he assumed a cot death story: why else the talcum powder? But it transpires that the ghost was a nun, at which everyone at the dinner party nodded wisely because it was well known that nuns use talc a lot. This blogger didn’t want to make a fool of himself and so just nodded wisely with everyone else. What is the deal with nuns and talculm powder?

    Now talcum powder apart are there any studies on paranormal smells? Drbeachcombing at yahoo DOT com There is a quite a lot on ghostly music so why not stinks or perfumes? Beach should also note that smell is sometime said to be the most evocative of the senses. Perhaps…

    23 November 2013: Karen writes: Some years ago, my husband and I moved to Memphis, TN, and bought a 1917 fixer-upper in a very nice historic district. (Yes, I know, overseas, 1917 is quite modern, not very historic: but this was Memphis TN, not Memphis, Egypt!) The house had “good bones” and was quite sound but was in sad shape insofar as decor. It had, unfortunately, been badly “remodeled” in the late 1960’s early 1970’s. (think avocado green coffeepot wallpaper and grungy harvest gold carpet. It was roach and rat infested. The elder owner-couple had gone to nursing home and their grandsons had used the old house as a marijuana greenhouse: I was told the entire attic had been wired with grow-lights! Anyhow, it stank, mostly of rats. Undaunted, I called exterminators who successfully rid the house of pests, whilst I rid it of stinking cabinets, rat poo, nasty carpet, and the accompanying nasty odours. An extraordinary amount of cleaning, sanding, priming, painting, refinishing, and cellar-cleaning resulted in a clean fresh house. THEN I restored and decorated. But on occasion, and only in the am, the smell of fresh cooked bacon wafted from the kitchen. I say fresh-cooked: rancid bacon grease does not smell the same at all.  My husband first commented, “Aren’t you cooking bacon?” My dog whimpered and begged for something I didn’t have.  My mother, on a visit, came into the kitchen saying “I smell bacon!” Other guests smelled morning bacon also, and had NOT been told of the bacon-smell mystery. Often, they were quite disappointed with breakfast because I hadn’t made bacon or ham. (MY DH had a heart condition: bacon was forbidden him so I wouldn’t cook it as a kindness to him.) Some people have suggested that the bacon smell had settled into old walls and crevices. Believe me when I say that old smells are not the same as fresh smells. Also the rat-stench had been completely removed, seams cleaned spackled, and “Kilzed” (which means heavy duty primer) so why would a bacon-smell remain when a more pungent smell didn’t? Even floors were sanded, stained and varnished. Old vents were professionally cleaned, a new range, range hood and vent pipe had been installed. If anything, the smells of paint fumes and varnish prevailed on every surface. My neighbors, whom I asked, denied cooking bacon on the days in question (although they did think me odd for asking) and in any case, the bacon couldn’t be smelled outside, only inside, and seemed to originate in the kitchen. Somehow I got the impression that the original lady of the house, whom I called “Mamie” (though I never knew why I did so) was either quite pleased with what I was doing to restore the house, or else just making breakfast in her own “time zone” and didn’t even know I was there. I believe the former. A pleasant haunting by a pleasant lady ghost. One day I shall tell you about the man in the antique chair, but he was seen, not smelled. Thanks Karen for this excellent low-grade ghost story!

    18 Dec 2013: James G writes in with this article noting the connection between smells and fear. Fascinating stuff! Thanks James!